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Working people's coalition forms in Houston

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON - On February 6 and 16, 2007 a coalition of progressive organizations convened in Houston to discuss the devastating impact of President Bush's budget proposal on the working people and poor citizens of America. Participating organizations included: the Houston Urban League, ACORN, AFL-CIO, Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Houston Peace and Justice Center, the Community of Faith Baptist Church, NAACP, First Unitarian Church, SEIU, Local 100, SEIU Justice for Janitors, Houston InterFaith Workers Justice Center, Children's Defense Fund, CWA, SEARCH Homeless program, and a representative from the New Orleans School Board. Representatives from the offices of the following elected officials were also in attendance: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis and City Council Member Carol Alvarado. The group was named the "Coalition of Working People and the Poor" or "CWPP." A press conference was held on February 16, 2007.

The coalition pointed to the huge disparities between the rich and poor which have been widened and deepened by Bush administration policies, including tax cuts for the wealthy, and devastation of human needs programs through budget cuts. The cost of the war in Iraq to working people was also highlighted.

Bishop James Dixon, II, Senior Pastor of Community of Faith Church, will lead the coalition. Coalition participants agreed that inequality and poverty are a threat to democracy. Dixon pointed to the need to respond aggressively to the reduction of funding for human needs programs in a public way. He called for a demonstration, march and rally which is planned for March 24 at 9am in Hermann Square in downtown Houston.

Dixon pointed out that 45 million people are without health insurance, many of whom are working. He reported that 8 million in Texas are without health insurance and over 1 million of those are children. He spoke to the need to address the things in the budget that negatively impact children. He called for unity and reminded us that there is "strength in unity." It was pointed out that the Bush administration attempts to split social programs by making them compete for funding, "They pit us against each other for a shrinking pot."

In a press release, Dixon declared, "this Coalition of Advocates for Working People and the Poor have assembled to express our gross dissatisfaction with the country's growing insensitivity to the enormous burden that our nation's economic policies continue to place on those who can least afford it…There are presently 35.9 million Americans who live below the poverty line…Many of these people are second and third generation poor and find little to no evidence that there are viable means of escaping the grinding grip of poverty in their lifetimes." "We are appalled at the proposed budget of President George Bush, which further illustrates this administration's callousness towards this condition… This budget would pay workfare recipients less than minimum wage. The message we continue sending to our nation's less fortunate is hypocritical. In light of the fact that we are spending 195 million dollars per day in Iraq…195 million dollars could cover the full cost of attendance for one year at a public college for more than 17,100 students, 195 million dollars could enroll 27,000 more children in Head Start, 195 million dollars could employ 4,269 elementary school teachers or 4,027 secondary school teachers for one year, 195 million dollars could provide health insurance coverage to 344,500 working Americans…, 195 million dollars could provide health insurance coverage for one year to 380,900 uninsured children in America, 195 million dollars could provide unemployment benefits for almost 722,000 unemployed Americans for one week, 195 million dollars could fund Social Security retirement benefits for one day for over 6.75 million Americans," said Dixon in the public statement.

The coalition is proposing a plan of action which demands: "Full funding for human needs to include: Head Start, Food Stamps, CHIP, Healthcare, and Minimum Wage." The coalition expressed the belief that the majority of Americans support this cause and called for "those who are truly compassionate to stand up and be counted."

For more information on the CWPP, you can contact James Dixon, II at (713)688-2900.

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